U.S., Bulgaria working on deal for shared military facilities
U.S. and Bulgarian negotiators this week met for a third round of talks aimed at establishing shared military facilities that would house up to 2,500 U.S. troops at a time in Bulgaria.
Similar talks have been taking place with officials in Romania, and according to a Reuters news report, Romanian President Traian Basescu announced Thursday that the U.S. had reached a deal with his country.
“We finalized negotiations regarding U.S. military facilities on the Black Sea coast and maybe in other areas of Romania,” Basescu was quoted as saying.
The facilities — negotiators have insisted calling the sites “facilities” instead of bases — would host U.S. troops as invitees of the governments.
Troops would go there on rotations ranging from two weeks to six months.
Robert Loftis, the State Department’s chief negotiator, said U.S. troops would be able to deploy for operations from Bulgaria only after consulting with the host government and if the deployment would meet both nations’ “needs.”
“The United States has worldwide responsibilities, security commitments and it’s absolutely critical that we be able to use those forces to meet those commitments,” Loftis said in an interview with a Bulgarian newspaper that was published on the U.S. Embassy’s Web site.
“We need the flexibility, if we are in one country, we need the flexibility to be able to take those forces and move them somewhere else where they might be needed,” Loftis said.
“We need to be able to respond to contingencies wherever they arise and that’s one of the common arrangements where we have our forces located.”
Other items being negotiated included legal jurisdiction over U.S. troops in Bulgaria, and environmental concerns.
Bulgaria and Romania are located on the Black Sea, an important shipping thoroughfare that is also surrounded by Ukraine, Russia, Georgia and Turkey.
The facilities in those countries would not resemble the large U.S. military communities in Europe, Loftis said.
Troops would be rotated there on “unaccompanied” tours, meaning family members would not come along.
No timetable has been set to close the deal with Bulgaria, Loftis said, saying that many issues needed to be agreed upon before a contract was signed.
The shared facilities would be at Novo Selo, where previous U.S. and multinational training has been held, and Bezmer air base. Both are located near the eastern Bulgarian city of Sliven.
“This is the first time that Bulgaria would be hosting foreign forces and there are a lot of questions that come up,” Loftis said.
“We need to make sure that [Bulgaria is] completely comfortable with [its] obligations and we are completely comfortable with our obligations.”